A good night’s sleep gives you tons of benefits — regulated appetite, healthy skin, improved immunity, and clearer thinking. Regular sleep also optimizes your nervous system, bone health, and circulation. And, getting your snooze on boosts your heart health.
However, only one in three adults gets the seven to eight hours of sleep recommended by the CDC.
Interventional cardiologist Yogesh Paliwal, MD, of Indus Cardiology, asks his patients to prioritize sleep. Here’s what you need to know about sleep and why getting ample shuteye helps your heart.
The stages of sleep
As you lay down to rest, your body starts to move into a different mode. Sleep takes place in four different stages, each lasting 70-120 minutes:
This first stage is short; it’s the transition from wakefulness to sleep. You may doze off or feel very heavy and sleepy.
During stage two, your mind and body settle into sleep. You’re easily awakened though; a loud noise or uncomfortable position can disrupt your slumber.
Stage three is the period of deep sleep. Your muscles relax deeply, breathing slows, blood pressure decreases, and heart rate reduces.
Stage four is the period of REM, or rapid eye movement. This is the dream stage of sleep, during which you experience a faster heart rate compared to early sleep states. Your respiratory rate also increases. A type of temporary muscle paralysis (atonia) prevents your arms and legs from moving excessively during REM sleep.
The benefits of restful sleep
Sleep is incredibly healing to your body. Your body uses sleep to strengthen the cardiovascular and immune systems and regulate your metabolism.
Hormones produced or regulated during sleep include melatonin, which promotes sleep. Levels of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, decline during sleep.
Growth hormones, powerful substances to repair and build muscle, blood vessels, bone, and other tissues, also increase in production. In addition, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines during a good night’s sleep. Your body uses cytokines to fight inflammation, infection, and trauma.
Your brain also sorts through the day’s experiences, creates long-term memories, and manages various bodily functions during sleep.
Notably, many of these actions occur during stage three (deep sleep) and stage four (REM sleep). Thus, restless sleep or making do with less than seven to eight hours of sleep can impact your health.
The effects of poor sleep on your heart health
Poor sleep is associated with problems that affect your heart health, including:
- Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries)
- Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
- Diabetes and insulin resistance
- Unexplained weight gain
- Elevated cholesterol
- Hormonal imbalances
- Increased bodily inflammation
- Increased appetite leading to weight gain
- Decreased motivation leading to physical inactivity
- High C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of excess inflammation
Poor sleep can also increase your risk of anxiety, depression, daytime fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
Improving your sleep routine
We recommend these habits to improve your sleep:
- Setting regular sleep and wake times
- Avoiding going to bed overly full or hungry
- Keeping the bedroom cool
- Exercising regularly but avoiding late-evening workouts
- Avoiding long naps and caffeine late in the day
- Unwinding with a relaxing routine before going to bed
If you struggle with insomnia, reach out to your care provider. Insomnia includes trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
If you need any information or support for your heart health, reach out to Indus Cardiology. Call today or use this website to schedule an appointment.